Late last year, Save the Mothers (STM) announced the beginning of a whole new era in our work in East Africa. Plans were revealed for STM founder and executive director Dr. Jean Chamberlain Froese to return to Canada, and for local leadership in East Africa to step into her role there, in order that they might lead our on-the-ground programs for East Africans. It is the very model on which Save the Mothers was developed – cultivating local indigenous leaders to bring lasting change in their communities. In January 2017, the appointment of Dr. Miriam Mutabazi as STM’s East African Director was announced. Over the past number of weeks, Dr. Mutabazi has been busy learning her new role with Save the Mothers, but took time out to answer a few questions, so we might get to know her better.
Q: How did you first learn about Save the Mothers?
MM: I first learned about Save the Mothers from Dr. Jean, when I met her here at Uganda Christian University some years ago. The STM program had just started and she invited me to come and teach a course on Foundations of Safe Motherhood on a part-time basis. I’ve been teaching the same course ever since as my other work would allow.
Q: As you’ve learned more about the program and the organization behind it – what have been your thoughts?
MM: As I’ve learned more about Save the Mothers’ advocacy and capacity building efforts, I have become convinced that the issues of Maternal and Child Survival should be addressed in a holistic manner, and that there is no one better than East Africans to take the lead in putting our heads and efforts together for a greater impact.
Q: Why did you want this role with Save the Mothers?
MM: I want to contribute to improving the health of mothers and their families on a wider scale; to build partnerships at all levels and places; to care for the various mothers in our culture, many of whom are voiceless and isolated because of their culture, religious beliefs, socioeconomic status, education, insecurity, and more.
Q: Help North American readers understand what the maternal health situation is like there in East Africa in 2017.
MM: In East Africa, statistics pertaining to maternal mortality have stagnated or worsened in the past decade. Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania currently all have maternal mortality ratios that hover around at least 500 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births per year.
This translates into approximately, 492 maternal deaths per month, or 16 deaths per day. This is a very high figure, and yet we also know that most maternal deaths are not captured by the health information management system (which is the source of the maternal mortality estimates). One wonders how the mothers that died at home – or on the way to a health facility, or who never made it at all – are counted or estimated.
Q: What gives you hope as you think about the current challenges in the field of maternal health?
MM: The key to all our problems is the people who are taking responsibility [to address this issue] at every level possible and every place known. We can choose to follow the traditional way of doing things, or be innovative to reduce the carnage of mothers and their babies in our communities.